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Face the Legendary FOLKLORDS in New Comic Book Series By Matt Kindt and Matt Smith

First Comics News - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 15:17

Discover the Hidden Secrets Behind an Epic Legend and a Twisted Reality in November 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 5, 2019) – BOOM! Studios is proud to announce FOLKLORDS, an all-new original five-issue series from Eisner Award-nominated writer Matt Kindt (Grass Kings, Black Badge) and acclaimed artist Matt Smith (Hellboy & the BPRD: Long Night at Goloski, Lake of Fire) about a young man whose forbidden quest reveals the shocking truth about his world and turns everything he ever knew upside down, available in November 2019.

In a world of magic and monsters, Ansel is an outsider haunted by visions of well-pressed suits and modern technology. When it comes time for him to declare his Quest on his 16th birthday, Ansel decides to seek out a legend that is only spoken in hushed whispers—the Folklords—hoping they can explain his visions…but looking for the Folklords is expressly forbidden and going on a rogue quest is punishable by death. What will Ansel risk to find out about the world he has never truly belonged in?

Matt Kindt is the New York Times bestselling writer and artist of the comics and graphic novels Dept. H, Mind MGMT, Revolver, 3 Story, Super Spy, 2 Sisters, and Pistolwhip, as well as the writer of Eisner Award-nominated Grass Kings and Black Badge with BOOM! Studios, Ether with Dark Horse Comics, Justice League of America with DC Comics, Spider-Man with Marvel Comics, and Unity, Ninjak, Rai, and Divinity with Valiant Comics. He has won the PubWest book design award, been nominated for six Eisner Awards, and six Harvey Awards (and won once). His work has been published in French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Korean.

“Ideas usually sneak up on you. But this one came in a flash. As soon as my plucky editor, Eric, said the word ‘FOLKLORDS’, I had an image of this teenage kid in a black suit and tie…walking through a small folk tale-style village full of gnomes, witches, and trolls. It looked jarring, seeing that kid there. He was completely out of place. What’s this kid wearing a suit for? Is he living in a fairy tale? Why is he there?” said writer Matt Kindt. “I’m not sure why the word triggered that image in my head but I didn’t question it. The question I did have? Who the heck are the FOLKLORDS? This kid…in this suit and tie…who doesn’t seem to belong? He’s going to find out.”

Matt Smith is an illustrator and comic artist based out of Massachusetts. He started out in comics with his tribute to the medieval Icelandic Sagas, Barbarian Lord, published by Clarion Books. Since then, Smith has gone on to collaborate with comics creator Mike Mignola on the upcoming Hellboy & the BPRD: Long Night at Goloski Station for Dark Horse Comics, writer Nathan Fairbairn on Lake of Fire for Image Comics, and several short stories for BOOM! Studios, including Planet of the Apes: When Worlds Collide with writer Matt Kindt.

“Getting to work with Matt Kindt again was something I couldn’t pass up. He brings a depth and  thoughtfulness to the characters that makes me want to invest in them. That’s what I look for in a script. Well, that and a great story to put those characters in,” said artist Matt Smith.  “Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that there are armored librarians, psychotic killers, angry gnomes, and a big ol’ troll, too. Ok, forget all that stuff about depth and whatever, it’s about the troll.”

FOLKLORDS is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora; Faithless by Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet; Abbott by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä; Bury The Lede by Gaby Dunn and Claire Roe; and Klaus by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties including Joss Whedon’s Firefly from Greg Pak and Dan McDaid; Buffy The Vampire Slayer from Jordie Bellaire and David Lopez; and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers from Ryan Parrott and Daniele Di Nicuolo.

“We’ve all had that sense that we just don’t fit in, that there’s some other world out there where we truly belong — and for Ansel, that might just be the case,” said Eric Harburn, Senior Editor, BOOM! Studios. “Matt Kindt and Matt Smith, along with colorist Chris O’Halloran and letterer Jim Campbell, are a powerhouse team with a brilliant new take on the epic fantasy quest, one that no reader will see coming.”

Print copies of FOLKLORDS #1 will be available for sale November 13, 2019 exclusively at local comic book shops (use comicshoplocator.com to find the nearest one) or at the BOOM! Studios webstore. Digital copies can be purchased from content providers, including comiXology, iBooks, Google Play, and the BOOM! Studios app.

For continuing news on FOLKLORDS and more from BOOM! Studios, stay tuned to www.boom-studios.com and follow @boomstudios on Twitter.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

“Stan Lee’s A Trick Of Light” at SDCC 2019

First Comics News - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 15:00

First Comics News takes a look at the offsite for Stan Lee’s A Trick Of Light during San Diego Comic-Con 2019. It was one of the last projects Stan Lee worked on before his untimely passing.  A Trick Of Light is now available on Audible.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

A Butcher, a Baker, and Naughty Nannies in D&D’s First Setting Book: City State of the Invincible Overlord

DM David - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 12:05

In December of 1975, TSR had yet to publish any Dungeons & Dragons setting information other than the hints published in the Grayhawk and Blackmoor supplements. Blackmoor’s Temple of the Frog qualified as the only published adventure, although the armies housed by the temple made the place unsuitable for a dungeon crawl.

So when Decatur, Illinois gamers Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owen visited TSR that December, they brought a new idea. Bob asked TSR for authorization to make a line of play aids for D&D players and judges.

Shannon Appelcline, author of Designers & Dragons, recounts what happened next. “Bledsaw told them about his ideas for gamemaster supplements…and the result was laughter. The TSR staff explained to Bledsaw and Owen that gamers wanted games, not supplements, and told them they were more than welcome to publish D&D supplements (and lose money) if they wanted to.”

A quarter of the city map

Bledsaw turned his drafting skills to map a huge city that would become the City State of the Invincible Overlord. He brought the poster maps to Gen Con in 1976. There he canvassed the convention goers, sold out of maps, and offered memberships to the Judges Guild, a subscription to future play aids. Shortly after Gen Con, charter subscribers received a package including the Initial Guidelines Booklet I (I as the Roman 1). The next package included Guidelines Booklet J (J as the letter after I). The guidelines supported the City State with encounter charts, information on social tiers, supplemental rules, and descriptions of a few streets.

In 1977, a retail version of the City State reached stores. The $9 package includes a huge 34″ x 44″ map in four sections, and 11″ x 17″ map of the castle of the dwarven king backed with a sprawling dungeon map, three booklets detailing over 300 individual locations and the non-player characters who populate them, maps for ten more dungeon levels, plus players’ maps.

A baker

The package shows remarkable creative output. No locations in the sprawling city rate as too mundane for descriptions. Even with five bakers, the guide finds something interesting to say about each. The locations offer a treasury of fantasy names. Just the roster of the Mercenaries Guild provides 20 names, and the city has 300 more locations.

The City State resembled the dungeon adventures of the time, densely packed locations with little natural order. The place has 5 bakers, but lacks a miller, brewer, fuller, glazier, wheeler, cooper, fletcher, mason, as well as many other popular boys’ names. Humans dominate the population, but trolls, ogres, and other monsters hold jobs. A shop’s proprietor could be a shapeshifted ogre mage or dragon. The undertaker employs undead. A god lives at his local temple.

Have you found god?

Even though a modern product with similar scope might sprawl over 500 or more pages, the City State’s descriptions take fewer than 80 pages. The terse descriptions provide seeds for improvisation rather than details.

Despite the product’s tremendous scope—or perhaps due to it—I struggled to figure out how center a game around the City State. I looked for guidelines booklets A through H, but never found them. Did I need them?

Bledsaw’s grandson, Bob Bledsaw III, explains the missing letters. “Initial Guidelines Booklet I was supposed to be I as in a roman numeral one. However, when it came time for the second Guidelines Booklet to come out, my grandfather told the typist to continue the series from before.” The typist followed I with J rather than II. “For the sake of consistency, they continued to use letters, much to my grandfather’s chagrin. So that’s why there are books I, J, K, L, M, etc.”

Nowadays, urban adventures tend to be narrative based, with clues leading characters from one location to the next. This allows a focus on key locations. In 1977, no one played D&D that way. Instead, players entered the dungeon or wilderness to explore room by room, hex by hex. The original D&D rule books explained how to conduct dungeon and wilderness adventures, water and aerial adventures, but nothing about cities. Cities served as a base to heal and gather supplies before you left for the next adventure. Cities were for bookkeeping.

So how did a DM run a game in the City State? The guidelines seem to imply that characters will wander the city, either shopping for adventuring gear or pursing rumors that will lead to their next adventure. In the course of wandering, they can trigger random encounters, often keyed to the neighborhood.

Basing a night of gaming on shopping or rumor gathering presents a lot of difficulties, mostly for reasons I described in Avoiding the Awkward D&D Moment When a Priest, a Wizard, and a Dwarf Enter a Bar and Nothing Happens. Typically these activities offer the players few challenges—except for the rare cases where a level-6, chaotic-evil butcher attacks the party’s dwarf.

A butcher

The optimal session in the City State finds the players quickly uncovering a rumor and chasing it to a dungeon, or to a plot hook involving a giant, hairy stalker.

The best—and most intimidating—part of the City State came from the rumors. Many provided exciting invitations to adventure. Every storefront seemed like a launching point for an adventure.

As a dungeon master, the rumors made the city even more challenging to run. All the rumors inspired, but they led to adventures that demanded either preparation or more improvisation than I care to attempt. Every rumor promised an adventure that the DM needed to make good. In the Pig & Whistle tavern players learn that a mountain disappeared 120 miles south of the city. I want to play that adventure, but if I’m DM, I don’t want to ad lib it.

For all the product’s creative energy, its seamy side disagreed with my tastes. Even the map shows a goblin reservation. I prefer my monsters dangerous, rather than downtrodden. I do not want to invite analogies between monsters and real human beings who suffered a history of mistreatment.

In addition to a slave trade and many bordellos, the city has a Park of Obscene Statues (no kidding) and Naughty Nannies (still not kidding).

I’m not kidding

Even the book had a seamy side: It includes tables to determine womens’ measurements. The text makes distinctions between amazons, vixens, houris, and courtesans. I don’t understand the categories—I guess I’ll never understand women.

Still not kidding

My 1977 copy of the City Sstate still contains the pencil marks noting elements I liked. I cherry picked the bits that captured my imagination while I toned down the patchwork insanity and the sordid bits.

Despite the product’s challenges, it scored as an outstanding map and a trove of ideas. As the first role-playing setting, the City State of the Invincible Overlord became a hit. That proved a mixed blessing: In a year, TSR would reverse its stance and demand licensing dollars from Judges Guild.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Realities of High Level Play

Hack & Slash - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 12:00
This is a follow-up to my article on high level adventure design, On Failing High Level Play.

I've run. . . a lot of high-level games. The first high-level campaign I ran started in 1984, and involved going through the entire Temple of Elemental Evil and environs in a second edition campaign. I've run several high level 5th edition campaigns, including 17 levels of Horde of the Dragon Queen, 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons to level 11/12, Pathfinder and 3rd edition, ranging up to levels around 14. My average campaign length is about 50 games, which is approximately 18 months of play. I believe the last time a survey was run, the average campaign was found to run about 14-16 games, covering 4-6 months. (Average sessions before restart is 15.4).

I'm focusing on Dungeons and Dragons here, but I've also run 2+ year campaigns of Vampire and Shadowrun, and probably other things I'm forgetting. I can barely remember the names of everyone I've slept with, no way I'm going to remember every role-playing game that got past character creation.

First, if you're reading this, you don't play enough Dungeons & Dragons. Play more, eh? Don't be such a poser.

Second, High level play is not low level play. Most high level adventures are low-level adventures with the high-level abilities restricted. Partially because most module writers are astoundingly terrible, but primarily because high-level play by necessity must be organic.

Each type of game has a different balance and feel to high level adventures:

Basic: High level basic Dungeons & Dragons games are unique. The world of Mystara is a very high magic world. It was not realistic to run a campaign through 30-60 levels to become a high-powered immortal. The loose rules structure led to high level campaigns that became somewhat narrative in scope. A group might fight four dragons, and kill them all in one round, or hop to an alternate plane and fight Nazi's in tanks and soldiers with automatic weapons. A large number of basic D&D games took place almost exclusively in large dungeons. Take this example of play, from Rythlandor.

". . .Oni had begged Elessar to help him rescue his brother who was imprisoned in an evil temple complex. Oni had now recovered from the ill effects of his own imprisonment and was ready for Elessar to attempt the rescue. With Elessar and Oni went superhero Ragnar, ranger-guardian Athelfrar, sorceress Charmen, patriarch Benelux, and lama Ydol, and dwarf-myrmidon Ibb. They landed on a remote norther bay of the island, where they almost immediately were beset by a pair of white dragons. One dragon was quickly slain and the other flew off to the north. The small group headed south to the mountain where the evil tower built of metal was located. Oni led them well, and the party approached the tower from the opposite side of the mountain. Using the flying carpet and an invisibility spell, Ragnar, Elessar and Charmen flew unseen to a high rampart, followed by the rest with shuttles of the carpet. As the last arrived, a door opened and the fight was on. It was a one-sided affair since the low-level guards could hardly hope to overcome the powerful fighters and mages invading, but one of the guards did get away. The group pursued the fleeing guard after hacking their way through the other guards, but soon they heard the alarm gong sounding. The pursuit, however, led them to another guard room containing the alarm gong. Ragnar's sword Quicksliver struck and Charmed[sic] one of the guards, and ordered him to sound the all clear signal, which the guard did.  The group continued through a bridged walkway into the mountain itself, killing or charming the hapless low-level guards who got in their way, rampaging through the rooms and looting anything that could be moved. A favorite tactic was to have Elessar leap through a door and use his cold wand on the occupants, reminding some of Clint Elesswood starring in "A Fistful of Snow". Gradually they worked their way down through the living quarters to the temple area below, leaving no survivors to raise new alarms of their presence. At last one fighter escaped, this time with Elessar in hot pursuit while the others stayed to dispatch the guards. Elessar chased the evil guard silently and invisibly right into the middle of the main sanctuary of the temple where a human sacrifice had just been completed. As the doors of the temple closed behind Elessar, he heard a voice behind him say "I detect the presence of Good! [sic]" He turned and made ready to fight to the death, but the guards walked by him and arrested the man he had been chasing! Naturally the guards couldn't see or hear Elessar, and though the poor guard was radiating those Good[sic] vibrations. . . Elessar decided to leave the cavernous sanctuary and it's host of evil worshippers and rejoined the group as they finished off the last of the guards on the staircase.  With the aid of a Charmed[sic] evil cleric, the group went down to an underground passage in the metal tower. They located Oni's brother and several other prisoners and freed them. They also killed some of the monsters lurking in other rooms, including 8 mummies, 3 wraiths, 2 chimerae, a 9-headed hydra, and 21 ogres." -Ryth Chronicle February 1977
This is an example of a single play session of play from Dungeons and Dragons, several years into a campaign.

1st edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: This edition is more grounded than basic. It's designed with exponential experience. As the party continues to adventure, the adventure increases in scope, continually increasing in power even with party losses and death. A first level character joining a party of fifth level characters will be fifth level by the time the party reaches sixth level. 

The other factor is that there's a limited amount of experience to be gained. High level characters on a single adventure, lasting three or four sessions might expect to garner 40-60,000 experience over that period (between 10 and 20 thousand a session). It varies per class, but there comes a point around level 7-9 which requires 100,000 experience to reach. . . and 100,000 to reach the next level.

At lower levels experience gain is slower, it can take upwards of 18 months to reach that first 100k experience threshold, and then another 5-10 sessions for that next level. The level after that needs twice as much, 20 sessions, 6-8 months. Characters hit a wall and advancement via personal strength slows about the time they begin to influence the world through political means by attracting followers and clearing land.

High level games frequently include a player managing a character, up to dozen henchmen, hundreds of mercenaries and hirelings, and everyone that lives on the land they possess. Another factor with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons is that the characters are still very human. Hit point advancement stops and doesn't increase much. Saving throws and armor classes will allow many characters to avoid damage 90+% of the time, but that 10 percent is often very deadly: Death rays, dragons breath, spells of death, cloudkill, and paralyzation.

Pathfinder/late 3rd Edition: Early 3.0 plays much closer to basic, but due to the culture around "Ivory tower design" and the character optimization boards along with a design that only gave experience only for combat victories, the game quickly shifted to a focus to tactical challenges and encounters. The game became more and more mechanical, relying on the rules to structure play so that it's 'fair'. The games were a "Players Bill of Rights" that they could be guaranteed their agency. Sadly, this agency was limited to your options on the tactical maps.

Certain options begin to be eclipsed by others as soon as level six. There is no class as powerful as wizards and clerics. With endless buffs they are strictly better than combat classes, warping the game and making anyone who dreams of playing a lower tier class completely eclipsed by the more powerful options.

If you are playing similarly tiered classes, high level games involve too much time at the beginning of the session with gibber-jabber, and large combats that take 6+ hours to complete, due to the complexity of the rules. It's a fun tactical game, more open than a tactical game like Gloomhaven. It's fun, but it's not very close to my experiences of role-playing.

Can you run it in a more narrative faction and make it more of a role-playing game? Sure. Is that the type of thing someone who plans out a build for 12 or 15 levels wants to do? Usually not.

5th Edition: I've run several fifth edition games to levels 15+. 5th edition characters require about the same amount of experience for each level, making leveling very consistent. Characters will reach 2nd level after one session, and third level by their third session. After that they will level about every 3 sessions. Many, many fifth edition players remove player motivation and use milestone experience to control the rate of advancement.

5th edition characters do not stop increasing in personal power. The curve is more suited to a B/X style game, but the endless gain of personal power provides a very different endgame.

For an example, my ex-wife played a barbarian during Horde of the Dragon Queen. Her standard procedure after level 10 was to jump to reach whatever dragon was flying nearby and grapple it while hitting it with her axe several times each round until it died. Once a dragon lived through two rounds of this. At the end of the campaign, she had upwards of over 300 hit points, and during her endless rage only took half damage from anything but psychic attacks. Not counting healing or other defenses, this generally required doing 700+ points of damage before she even felt threatened in combat. Considering the bard could heal everyone for hundreds of hit points every round, it often required many hundreds more points of damage.

Our battlemaster fighter wore heavy armor that provided damage reduction. I could only manage to hit him, with anything but the most powerful monsters, 5% of the time. Since he also had the lucky feat, he could nullify 3 of those hits every game session. He also had over 100 hit points.

Do you know how many times you have to attack a person before you hit with a 20? A lot.  The fact that the first 3 important hits could be waved away with lucky made him almost invulnerable.

High level 5th edition play, with its focus on constantly and steadily increasing personal power feels very anime, very Final Fantasy. Everything is very elastic, you're up, you're down, the power levels are very high, and the threat to the characters is very low. Combat runs amazingly quickly, considering the complexity of the game. It's extremely well designed. Often the most time consuming part of combat is doing three column subtraction of hit points.

If you like posts like this, I depend on your support to survive. Join my Patreon, or pick up a copy of one of my books from my storefront. My average review score is 4.5, my latest module, Eyrie of the Dread Eye has only 5 star reviews, NINE of them. It's a high level adventure; if you want to see high level design done right, check it out. 
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Blood & Treachery - The Hidden Connections in Judge's Guild's City State of the Invincible Overlord 1977 & Gary Gygax's Greyhawk

Swords & Stitchery - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 06:54
"A legend in gaming history, the revised booklet covers the many various shops, taverns, inns, temples, and barracks of the classic city state. Long a favorite of Judges all over the world, and our best selling item since it was printed in 1977, it includes maps for boths players and judges of the areas and five levels of dungeon under the City State to explore. Also shown in all it's Dwarven Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gen Con Video blitz 2 Jason Hardy on Sprawl Ops and the 6th World Core Book

Gamer Goggles - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 23:54

I ran into Jaason Hardy and we got to talk about Shadow Run Spawl op and the Sixth World

The Sixth World sold out on Friday @Gen_con and Jason Hardy said it was because of my videos . I know that’s not true, but it’s really nice that he thinks so.

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2019
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Free Games?! I Can Get Free Games?

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 22:58

Yes; there is such a thing. Make a Let's Play video of a THW Games, send it to me, I approve it and the person making it gets a free game. Any interested parties? Email me at:


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Coming to Kickstarter Next Month!

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 22:33

Hey everyone, just like zombies rise from the dead so will this Kickstarter. 

10 Games

Had some potential problems arise so I canceled as I didn't want to disappoint. Now I've worked out details with a reliable printer and did a poll to see what games you were interested in.

We'll Kickoff again next month, that's the plan. Ten games to start and at a reasonable price. Stay tuned!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs


First Comics News - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 20:48
Ten years later, a landmark moment in Archie Comics history is being revisited! ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE 10th ANNIVERSARY is a sequel to the headline-making 2009 “Archie wedding” storyline. The original story written by Michael Uslan answered Riverdale’s longest-running question: will Archie marry Betty or Veronica? Fans were treated to two alternate worlds that explored each possibility and Uslan’s sequel picks up both stories ten years later. See how much life has changed for Archie, his family, and the rest of Riverdale in this new and exciting mini-series!
Script: Michael Uslan
Art: Dan Parent, J. Bone, Glenn Whitmore, Jack Morelli
Cover: Dan Parent
Variant Covers: J. Bone, Francesco Francavilla, Robert Hack, Aaron Lopresti
On Sale Date: 8/7
32-page, full color comic
$3.99 U.S.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs


First Comics News - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 20:48
Get ready for a fun-filled JUBILEE with over 100 of Archie’s most hilarious and entertaining stories!
Script: Various
Art: Various
Cover: Dan Parent
$14.99 US/$16.99 CAN
4 7/8 x 6 9/16”
1000 pp, Full Color
Direct Market On-Sale Date: 8/7

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Rockwell Museum to Host an Evening with Art Spiegelman

First Comics News - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 20:35

Pulitzer-Prize winning artist to discuss Maus as part of Rockwell’s Questioning Identity series

Corning, N.Y. (August 5, 2019): The Rockwell Museum is pleased to host an evening with Pulitzer-Prize Winning artist Art Spiegelman. Spiegelman will discuss his groundbreaking Maus graphic novel and its place in current global conversations in this culminating program of The Rockwell’s Year of Questioning Identity.

Art Spiegelman’s impressive accomplishments have helped secure comics’ place as an important part of literature. In 1992, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his masterful Holocaust narrative, Maus—which portrayed Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. Maus II continued the remarkable story of his parents’ survival of the Nazi regime and their lives later in America. In 1999, he was inducted into the Eisner Award’s Hall of Fame.

As a pioneer in underground comix, Spiegelman, along with publisher Francoise Mouly, co-edited RAW, which helped launch the careers of Chris Ware, Gary Panter, and Charles Burns. His boundary-breaking career stretches from his artwork in The New Yorker to creating The Garbage Pail Kids for Topps.

His other books include In the Shadow of No Towers, Jack Cole, and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits and MetaMaus.  His comics are best known for their shifting graphic styles, their formal complexity, and controversial content.

Spiegelman currently advocates for greater comics literacy.  As an editor, a teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and a lecturer, Spiegelman has promoted a better understanding of comics and has mentored younger cartoonists.

“The Rockwell Museum is thrilled to welcome Art Spiegelman to discuss his seminal book, Maus, one of the graphic novels that propelled the literary form into the mainstream,” said Brian Lee Wisenhunt, Executive Director.  “As both the artist and writer, Spiegelman intertwined both into an innovative narrative format that still feels fresh almost thirty years later.  This underscores not only his contribution to the field but also the importance of his story and its continued ability to reach people with an important story of the Holocaust.”

The event begins at 7 pm on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, and this Rockwell event is located at The Corning Museum of Glass Auditorium, 1 Museum Way, Corning, NY.  After an hourlong discussion, Spiegelman will engage with the audience for a question and answer segment. General admission is $20, while student tickets are $10. Rockwell members are admitted free for this event.  More details and tickets are available at www.rockwellmuseum.org.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Justin Maller talks about DEVIANTART

First Comics News - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 20:27

Justin Maller is a freelance Illustrator & Art Director from Melbourne, Australia. He has been producing artwork professionally since graduating from the University of Melbourne in 2006. He is also the Chief Creative Officer of deviantART. Justin was nice enough to stop by First Comics News and let our readers know about his career and DeviantArt.

First Comics News: You were going to the University of Melbourne in Australia at the same time you were serving as Creative Director at Depthcore in New York, how did that work?

Justin Maller: At the time, Depthcore was not based in NYC. I started Depthcore in Melbourne, so I suppose if it was based anywhere in those days it was in the Southern Hemisphere!

1st: What facilitated your move to Los Angeles?

Justin: In early 2018, I moved from NYC to LA to start work as the Chief Creative Officer of DeviantArt. It was a great opportunity for me to take the experience I’d had as the Creative Director of Depthcore – and as a freelance artist for more than 10 years – and translate it into projects with greater scope and impact.

1st: You have worked with brands like Nike, American Express, NBA, Coca-Cola, and Sony Pictures what made DeviantArt the right fit?

Justin: Transitioning from being a full-time artist to being part of the team here at DeviantArt was big, but I thought getting the chance to use my unusual career experience to benefit the artistic community that jump-started my passion for art and career was too great to pass up. A member of DeviantArt since 2001, I have deep roots here and a long term perspective of the community, as well as the way it has evolved over the years. The opportunity to fuse my community outlook with the point of view I gained over the course of progressing from an amateur artist to a full-time professional was a unique proposition.

1st: As Chief Creative Officer, what are your duties?

Justin: As the chief creative officer I am involved in a lot of different aspects of the company, but my two primary concerns are product development and community interaction. For product development, I am involved in strategically updating the website, the features that we are building for it and the direction that we want to move in. From a high level, I am able to represent an artist who has been through the various walks of an artistic life from beginner to a full time professional. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is being able to represent the creative point of view as we make products for artists. My day to day consists of brand partnerships, such as Universal How to Train Your Dragon, and community activations.

1st: What is the split with the artist when their art sells on DeviantArt?

Justin: Subscribed members are able to set any sale price they like above the base cost price, which gives them the ability to specify their own margins.

1st: How do artists find work from DeviantArt?

Justin: One-way artists can find work on DeviantArt is to always be creating more art. The DeviantArt team is always interacting with the community and a lot of brand partnerships have formed from our team reaching out to the artist because their artwork is a great fit for a brand we are working with.

1st: What can you do to make your art stand out on DeviantArt?

Justin: The best way to be noticed is to always interact! Giving other members feedback on their work and being involved with the community at large is a great way to begin to grow your own network.

1st: What makes DeviantArt better than other services like Pencil Jack, Art Station or even Instagram?

Justin: DeviantArt has always been a great place to learn to be an artist. We have a culture of constructive criticism and are very welcoming of all artists at any stage of their creative development.

1st: What is The Comic Creator Connection?

Justin: DeviantArt took 10 emerging, young artists to the Comic Creator Connection to connect them to writers. The Comic Creator Connection is best described as speed dating for writers and graphic artists. This is a great way for writers and comic artists to collaborate and discuss a project they would like to work on together and to gain experience in their professional lives. Since we’ve seen a lot more writers in the room than artists in the past, DeviantArt hand-selected 10 artists to become involved in this collaboration of creatives.

1st: How did this year’s Comic Creator Connection go?

Justin: From the artists to the creators of the Comic Creator Connection and the San Diego Comic-Con, feedback from everyone involved has been overwhelmingly positive. It was so wonderful to watch the group of artists we brought to the event bond and create together. I’m excited to see what projects emerge from the connections made at the event!

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Using Dungeon Dungeon issue #10 (March/April 1988) For a Greyhawk & Judge's Guild's The Wilderlands of High Fantasy 1977 Crossover Campaign Idea

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 17:06
If you want a magazine adventure that really establishes the Greyhawk veneer it would be Dungeon issue #10  (March/April 1988). Author John Nephew really back the party of adventurers when they encounter a tomb with a view. But there's far more here with an NPC and a magic item with issues.  Now Brice at Ten Foot Pole blog  doesn't hate  the adventure but  it does require a bit of Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A week in security (July 29 – August 4)

Malwarebytes - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 15:44

Last week on Malwarebytes Labs we discussed the security and privacy changes in Android Q, how to get your Equifax money and stay safe doing it, and we looked at the strategy of getting a board of directors to invest in government cybersecurity. We also reviewed how a Capital One breach exposed over 100 million credit card applications, analyzed the exploit kit activity in the summer of 2019, and warned users about a QR code scam that can clean out your bank account.

The busy week in security continued with looks at Magecart and others intensifying web skimming, ATM attacks and fraud, and an examination of the Lord Exploit Kit.

Other cybersecurity news
  • The Georgia State Patrol was reportedly the target of a July 26 ransomware attack that has necessitated the precautionary shutdown of its servers and network. (Source: SC Magazine)
  • Houston County Schools in Alabama delayed the school year’s opening scheduled for August 1st due to a malware attack. (Source: Security Affairs)
  • Over 95% of the 1,600 vulnerabilities discovered by Google’s Project Zero were fixed within 90 days. (Source: Techspot)
  • Researchers who discovered several severe vulnerabilities now uncovered two more flaws that could allow attackers to hack WPA3 protected WiFi passwords. (Source: The Hacker News)
  • Germany’s data protection commissioner investigates revelations that Google contract-workers were listening to recordings made via smart speakers. (Source: The Register)
  • Experts tend to recommend anti-malware protection for all mobile device users and platforms , but 47% of Android Anti-Malware apps are flawed. (Source: DarkReading)
  • Many companies don’t know the depth of their IoT-related risk exposure. (Source: Help Net Security)
  • Apple’s Siri follows Amazon Alexa and Google Home in facing backlash for its data retention policies. (Source: Threatpost)
  • There has been a 92% increase in the total number of vulnerabilities reported in the last year, while the average payout per vulnerability increased this year by 83%. (Source: InfoSecurity magazine)
  • Multiple German companies were off to a rough start last week when a phishing campaign pushing a data-wiping malware dubbed GermanWiper targeted them and asked for a ransom. (Source: BleepingComputer)

Stay safe, everyone!

The post A week in security (July 29 – August 4) appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Techie Feeds

The Colors of Nature Giveaway

Moogly - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 15:00

The Colors of Nature are indeed blooming as we enter the dog days of summer! Celebrate the season with this lovely coloring and instructional sketchbook by Lindsey Hopkins – I’m giving a copy away on Moogly! Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links; materials provided by Leisure Arts, shipping by Moogly. Relax with an Adult Coloring...

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The post The Colors of Nature Giveaway appeared first on moogly. Please visit www.mooglyblog.com for this post. If you are viewing this on another site they have scraped the content from my website without permission. Thank you for your support.

Categories: Crochet Life

How brain-machine interface (BMI) technology could create an Internet of Thoughts

Malwarebytes - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 15:00

She plugged the extension for car transportation in the brain-machine interface connectors at the right side of her head, and off she went. The traffic was relatively slow, so there was no need to stop working. She answered a few more emails, then unplugged her work extension. Weekend mode could now be initiated. How about we play a game? her AI BrainPal companion, Phoenix, suggested. Or would you rather sit back and enjoy the ride?

Too futuristic? A Scalzi rip-off? Sci-fi that’s really more of a fantasy? Sure, it’s not technology that’s ready to ship, but driving a car while writing emails or playing video games—all while being physically paralyzed—is a future not-too-far-off. And no, we’re not talking about self-driving cars.

Brain-machine interface (BMI) technology is a field in which dedicated, big-name players are looking to develop a wide variety of applications for establishing a direct communication pathway between the brain (wired or enhanced) and an external device. Some of these players are primarily interested in healthcare-centric implementations, such as enabling paralyzed humans to use a computer, but for others, improving the lives of the disabled are simply short-term goals on the road to much more broad and far-reaching accomplishments.

One such application of BMI, for example, is the development of a Human Brain/Cloud Interface (B/CI), which would enable people to directly access information from the Internet, store their learnings on the cloud, and work together with other connected brains, whether they are human or artificial. B/CI, often referred to as the Internet of Thoughts, imagines a world where instant access to information is possible without the use of external machinery, such as desktop computers or Internet cables. Search and retrieval of information will be initiated by thought patterns alone.

So exactly how does brain-machine interface technology work? And how far off are we from seeing it applied in the real world? We take a look at where the technology stands today, our top concerns—both for security and ethical reasons—and how BMI could be implemented for optimal results in the future.

Brain-machine interface technology today

At some level, brain-machine interface technology already exists today.

For example, there are hearing aids that take over the function of the ears for people that are deaf or hard of hearing. These hearing aids connect to the nerves that transmit information to the brain, helping people translate sound they’d otherwise be unable to process. There are also several methods that allow mute or paralyzed people to communicate with others, although those methods are still crude and slow.

However, organizations are moving quickly to transform BMI technology from theoretical to practical. Many of the methods we’ll discuss below have already been tested on animals and are waiting for approval to be tested on humans.

One company working on technology to link the brain to a computer is Elon Musk’s startup Neurolink, which expects to be testing a system that feeds thousands of electrical probes into the human brain around 2020. Neuralink’s initial goal is to help people deal with brain and spinal cord injuries or congenital defects. After all, such a link would enable patients to use an exoskeleton. But the long-term goal is to accomplish a brain-to-machine interface that could achieve a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence.

Working from a different angle are companies like Intel, IBM, and Samsung. Intel is trying to mimic the functionality of a brain by using neuromorphic engineering. This means they are building machines that work in the same way a biological brain works. Where traditional computing works by running numbers through an optimized pipeline, neuromorphic hardware performs calculations using artificial “neurons” that communicate with each other.

These are two wildly different techniques that are both optimized for different methods of computing. Neural networks, for example, excel at recognizing visual objects, so they would be better at facial recognition and image searches. Neuromorphic design is still in the research phase, but this and similar projects from competitors such as IBM and Samsung should break ground for eventual commoditization and commercial use. These projects might be able to provide a faster and more efficient interface between a real brain and a binary computer.

Using a technique called “neuralnanorobotics” neuroscientists have expressed they expect connections that are a lot more advanced to be possible within decades from now. While the technology is mainly being developed to facilitate accurate diagnoses and eventual cures for the hundreds of different conditions that affect the human brain, it also offers options in a more technological direction.

The human brain is an amazing computer

At a possible transmission speed racking up to ∼6 × 10^16 bits per second, the human brain is able to relay an incredible amount of information super fast. To compare, that is 60,000 Terabit per second or 7,500 Terabyte per second, which is a lot faster than the fastest stable Internet connection (1.6 Terabits per second) over a long distance recorded to date. This means that in our coveted brain-to-Cloud connection, the Internet would be the speed-limiting factor.

However, it’s most likely that the devices we are going to need to transform one kind of data into another will determine the speed at which BMI technology operates.

Beyond speed, there are other limiting factors that result in a technological mismatch for pairing brains and computers. Neuromorphic engineering is based on aligning the differences between the computers we are used to working with and biological brains. Neuromorphic engineers try to build computers that resemble a more human-like brain with a special type of chip. Of course, it is possible to mimic the functioning of the brain by using regular chips and special software, but this process is inefficient.

The main difference between logical and biological computers is in the number of possible connections. Simply put, if you want to match the thousands of possible connections that neurons can make, it takes a huge number of transistors. Enter: specially-crafted chips whose architecture resembles the human brain.

Yet, for all the brain’s marvels, speed, and thousands of neurons making connections and relying information, we are human after all, which means multiple flawed outcomes can result from those connections.

Know that frustrating feeling when you see a familiar face you’ve passed by hundreds of times, but can’t remember her name? Or hear a tune you’ve hummed endlessly for weeks, but don’t remember the lyrics? The number of connections a neuron can make does not always lead directly to the right answer. Sometimes, we are distracted or overwrought or we simply cannot retrieve known information from whichever location it’s been stored.

What if you could put a computer to work at such a moment? Computers do not forget information unless you delete it—and even then, it can sometimes be found. Now add the cloud and Internet connectivity, and suddenly, you’ve got an eidetic memory. It’d be like being able to Google something instantaneously in your head.

Should humans be wired to machines?

As we have shown, researchers are following several paths to determine applications for connecting our brains to the digital world, and they are considering the strengths and weaknesses of each as they attempt to achieve a symbiotic relationship. Whether it’s an exoskeleton that allows a paralyzed person to walk, Artificial Intelligence-powered computers that can ramp up on speed and visual capabilities, or connecting our brains to the Internet and the Cloud for storing and sharing information, the applications for BMI technology are nearly endless.

I’m sure this research can be of great benefit to handicapped people, enabling them to easier use appliances and devices, move around more freely, or communicate easier. And maybe one or more of these technologies could even bring relief to those suffering from mental health diseases or learning disabilities. In those cases, you will hear no argument from me, and I will applaud every step of progress made. But before I have my brain connected to the Internet, a lot of other requirements will have to be met.

For one, there are countless concerns about the ethical development of this technology. What is happening to the animals that are being tested? How would we determine the best way to move forward on testing humans? Is there a point of no return where once we hit a certain threshold, we lose control—and the computer or AI gains it? At which point do we stop and think: Okay, we know we can do this, but should we?

From a practical standpoint alone, there are some questions that need answering. For example, Bluetooth would be sufficient to control the medical applications, so why would we have to be hardwired to the Internet?

What is stopping brain-machine interface technology development today?

From where we are now in technology’s development, we see a few hurdles that will need to be jumped to move these techniques into a fully functional BMI. At a high level:

  • Progress needs to be made on developing smaller specialized computer chips that are capable of a multitude of connections. Remember, the first computers were the size of a whole room. Now, they fit in our pocket.
  • The research conducted in these fields will undoubtedly teach us more about the human brain, but there is so much we still don’t know. Will what we uncover about the brain be enough to successfully connect it to a machine? Or will what we don’t know hinder us or put us in danger in the end?
  • Approval from regulatory bodies like the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), law makers, and human rights organizations will be necessary to start testing on humans and expanding development into commercially viable products.

But there are more reasons that would stop me from using a BMI, even when the above points have been addressed:

  • Not everything you find on the Internet is true, so we would need some type of filter beyond search ranking to determine which information gets “downloaded” into people’s brains. How would we do so objectively? How could we simplify this without looking at a screen of search results, headlines, sources, and meta descriptions? Where does advertising come into play?
  • The combination of healthcare and cybersecurity has never been one that favors the security side. How will BMI integrate with hospital systems that use legacy software? What are the implications of someone actually hacking your brain?
  • Privacy will be a huge issue, since a cloud-connected brain could accidentally transmit information we’d rather keep to ourselves. I cannot control my thoughts, but I do like to control which ones I speak out loud, and which are published on the Internet.
  • The good old fear of the unknown, I will readily admit. We just don’t know what we don’t know. But who knows, maybe someday it will be as normal as having a smart phone.
What could stop us a few decades from now?

Let’s suppose we are able to work out all the high-level issues with privacy, security, filtering fact from fiction, and even learning all there is to know about the human brain. In a couple decades, we might have BMI in a place where we can conceivably release it to the public. There would still be kinks to iron out before this technology is ready for mass adoption. They include:

  • The cost of development will weigh heavily on the first use-cases. That means, quite simply, that the first people with access to BMI tech will likely be those with considerable wealth. With a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots today, how much further will this divide civilization when the top 1 percent not only control the majority of money, land, and media on the planet, but now they have super-powered brains?! Only mass production will make this sort of technology available to a larger part of the population.
  • The early adopters would be equipped with a super power, for all intents and purposes. Imagine interacting with a person that actually has all of human knowledge readily available. What will this do to working relationships? Friendships, marriages, or families? Outside of the economic imbalance mentioned above, what sort of sociological impact will result from BMI being unleashed?
  • Physical dangers are inherent when we directly connect devices of any sort to our bodies, and especially to our fragile brains. What are the possible effects of a discharge of static electricity directly into our brain?
Security concerns

Given that the path to the Internet of Thoughts seems destined to include medical research, discoveries, and applications, we fear that security will be implemented as an afterthought, at best. Healthcare has struggled as an industry to keep up with cybersecurity, with hospital devices or computers often running legacy software or institutions leaking sensitive patient data on the open Internet.

Where we already see healthcare technologies with the capability to improve quality of life (or even save lives) hurried through the development process without properly implementing security best practices, we shiver at the prospect of inheriting these poor programming and implementation habits when we start creating connections between the brain and the Internet.

Consider the implications if cybercriminals could hack into a high-ranking official’s BMI because of security vulnerabilities left unattended. One missed update could mean national security is now compromised. Imagine what an infected BMI might look like? Could criminals launch zombie-like attacks against communities, controlling people’s actions and words? Could they hold important information like passwords or your child’s birthday for ransom, locking you out of those memories forever if you don’t fork over? Could they extort celebrities or politicians for their private thoughts?

As a minor note and at the very least, I would certainly recommend using short-range connections like BlueTooth to develop medical applications for brain-machine interface. That might improve the chances of establishing a secure B/CI protocol for applications that require an Internet connection.

However, the main concern with BMI technology is not whether we’re capable of producing it, or even which applications of BMI deserve our attention. It’s that the Internet of Thoughts will become a dangerous and dark experiment that forever alters the way we humans communicate and interact. How can we be civil when our peers have access to our very thoughts—abstract or grim or judgmental or otherwise? What happens when those who cannot afford BMI attempt to compete with those that do? Will they simply get left behind?

When we connect our brain to a machine, are we even still human?

Questions to consider as this fairly new technology gains traction. In the meantime, stay safe everyone!

The post How brain-machine interface (BMI) technology could create an Internet of Thoughts appeared first on Malwarebytes Labs.

Categories: Techie Feeds

Cryptozoic and Sony Pictures Consumer Products Announce Release of CZX Outlander

Cryptozoic - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 13:00

Cryptozoic Entertainment and Sony Pictures Consumer Products today announced the August 14 release of CZX Outlander. Cryptozoic’s first CZXTMsuper premium trading card release features thick, glossy cards that sport gold Deco Foil, an unprecedented number of Dual and Triple Autograph Cards, and signers headlined by stars Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. It is the company’s premiere product to have Autograph-Wardrobe Cards, individual cards that are both signed and contain a piece of fabric used to make the show’s costumes.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On A Very Large Dungeon

Hack & Slash - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 12:00
I'm publicly
The actual cover doesn't have that text!announcing the release of the NEW Megadungeon!

In which we cover the secrets of secret doors, how to generate and manage keys in a megadungeon, the illustrations and keys for the cosmopolitan Halls of Heimall, the corrupted Chambers of Immoket, along with 2 different hidden treasure vaults, three brand new dragons, and an advertiser index (responsible for the new lower price).

It's super illustrated, with a beautiful cover by BodieH. I've set almost the whole thing with a preview on Drive Thru RPG, if you're curious what's inside!

Check it out in .pdf at DrivethruRPG and Lulu, or order print from Lulu. Print from DrivethruRPG coming soon! If you are an advertiser and you want a copy, go ahead and send me an e-mail! If you get a print copy and don't want to spring for a .pdf one before the deal on DTRPG, get at me, and I'll get you a copy. If you want it, and you can't pay, drop me a line and I'll shoot you a copy.

.PDF at DrivethruRPG
.PDF at Lulu
Print at Lulu
Print at DrivethruRPG (Coming soon, proof is on the way)

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Banshee’s Tower

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 11:28
By Joseph Mohr Old School Roleplaying OSRIC Levels 6-8

Travelers have complained recently about hearing strange noises and seeing strange things at an abandoned elven tower on the outskirts of the great forest. Some of these travelers have even reported deaths among their companions from mere firght at what they have seen or heard at the tower. Legends about this tower are that it once belonged to a banished elven princess. The elves of the woods sieged this tower several hundred years ago. Few humans remember the reasons why, But a few bards mention a legendary harp made of solid gold once owned by the princess. And it is said to have incredible magical powers…..

This thirty page single-column adventure details a ruined tower & dungeon with about 27 rooms scattered over four levels. Minimally keyed but with extensive, non-intentional, padding, it had my teeth grinding the entire time. 

One of my first college classes was a public speaking one. They used the gimmick of recording your talk for you to review later. Once I heard all of my Ummm, Ahhh, You Know pauses I was fixed for life; I almost never do that anymore in any form of speaking. I’m going to do something similar to that in this review.

“2. Guard Post

This was once a guard post. Men were stationed here to guard the room. They guarded it well. There is refuse from the guards beds on the floor. The guards items no longer remain but the guards do. 12 Wights (former guards)”

Ok, got it? Repetition. Yeahs, it’s also a terrible description with the past referenced, trivia and puts the most obvious things at the end. Hopefully you now cannot unsee these things. Now let’s look at a more subtle example from this adventure. 

“16. Guard Post

This was once a guard post and barracks. Bedding is strewn about the place and water has pooled up in the southern portion of the room. The most trusted and loyal of Shandalar Raloqen’s soldiers are still guarding this room.”

No? Not convinced? How about the potomac example of a bad room description, from that Dungeon Magazine adventure. Remember it? A long room description describing the contents in all its glory, only to end with “but that was all looted long ago and none of it remains.” 

And from the adventure “This room was once the armory for the tower. This area clearly saw some battle as a large section of the north wall has been caved in. The source of this collapse is still found in the room. A large boulder once fired by a trebuchet sits in the center of the floor.

This area has many thick webs all across the room. Glints of metal can be seen from racks along the south wall.”

This thing does this over and over and over and over again. It feels like every single room is in this form. This was X. But it now Y. And this things in the room was once A. It is now B.

“Where a gate house once stood there is nothing but emptiness. The two structures beside the opening clearly were designed to threaten anyone entering from this point. There are arrow slits still visible from both sides of this entrance. The gates have rotted away. The roof above this area has fallen in. Bits of rubble scattered in this area suggest that this was once a well guarded part of the fortress.”

“Defenders of the tower used this fortified area to fire arrows at attackers. Arrow slits point in three directions. Now all that remains here are arrowheads stacked near the wall. These were once attached to arrows and were in barrels for the defenders use. Those wooden arrows and barrels have disappeared over time but the arrowheads remain.”

These things are empty. They are nothing. Nothing but padding around rubble. 

There’s a statue. It’s noted as not having any magical properties. Well of fucking course not. That’s the usual state of the fucking world. No, wait, I’m upset. I’m upset that all of those arrowheads, rubble, boulders, rotter gates and so on ALSO don’t tell me that they have no magical properties. Do they or don’t they?

Dead Elf Chick/Banshee’s name is/was Shandalar Raloqen. That name appears no less than than 35 times in 30 pages and twenty times in the 27 rooms of the dungeon. “This was Shandalar Raloqen’s cup. Shandalar Raloqen drank from it. Because Shandalar Raloqen needed water to live.” No, that’s not in the text, but it COULD be. 

This is padded all to hell and is a perfect example of why one needs an editor. But then again, everyone here knows that, having long suffered my “I don’t give a fuck” typo style

On the plus side there’s a curse scroll that turns you in to a puddle of water and you drain away in the floor cracks. Dig it! Also, it’s on Shandalar Raloqen desk, next to a Candle of Insanity. Why did she, in life, keep that on her desk? Meh. Also, I wonder if that desk is magical …

Ultra minimally keyed and padded, unintentionally I think, out to fill word count and page count.

This is Pay What You Want on DriveThru with a suggested price of $2.50. The preview is six pages long and shows you nothing of the adventure except a wandering monster chart (full of bats & rats! For levels 6-8! Simulation is boring) and the lame-o backstory of Shandalar Raloqen.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Re-post: Every Life Needs a Spiritual Center

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 11:00

In ancient times, the pagan King Cyrus of Persia was moved by “the LORD, the God of heaven” to release the Jews exiled in Babylon to return to their devastated homeland in and around Jerusalem. King Cyrus’ instructions were to rebuild the temple that decades earlier had been demolished in rage by Nebuchadnezzar’s army (Ezra 1:2).

When the people of Judah arrived in their homeland, they found temple ruins in shambles, scattered and burned. Where should they begin?

Today, builders would likely erect the shell of the temple first with roof and external walls so they could go on working even in bad weather. But that’s not how the leaders of the Jews went about it.

Their first task was to relocate the place where the altar had stood, to clear it of all defilement, and to faithfully reconstruct that sacred spot where the sacrifices could again be offered. Completing the temple itself could come later.

We’re told they “began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it” (Ezra 3:2). Not walls, the court of the priests or the Holy of Holies. First to be reconstructed was the place of atonement between God and his people — the altar.

Every life can benefit by having a symbolic altar. Whenever I write about weddings or baptisms, I refer to the parties involved as meeting at the altar — even when the worship space has no such symbolic furniture.

I think of an altar as the center of worship in a Christian church, the place where worshipers meet God. It is symbolized in many churches with little more than a replica of the cross of Jesus, sometimes on the wall behind the pulpit or set in miniature on a communion table.

That spot represents the place where sinners may kneel and seek God and believers may come to meet God. At the altar, marriage vows are made, babies are dedicated to the Lord, and even caskets rest temporarily as death is acknowledged in the presence of God and believers take comfort from the Gospel even as they say a temporary farewell.

Like the ancient temple, the Christian home too should have an altar. In our house, one corner of our family room has a round table draped with blue patterned cloth that matches the valences above a wide window. On the table there is a simple lamp and two brass praying hands. They are bookends holding two Bibles, Kathleen’s and mine.

Each morning after breakfast we take the Bibles, read a chapter from them, and discuss the significance of what we’ve read. Then we pray together. This exercise with its simple setting is the center of our home — our family altar. It stood in our minds’ eyes as a symbol of the center of our lives together even when I was traveling and we were apart.

We believe that as God’s redeemed children we experience life best when focused on Him. This focus can, as in our case, be facilitated by a mental and / or tangible setting, however simple, where we pause and meet regularly with the Living God — life’s true center.

Photo credit: Richard Matthews (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds


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